Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Mass Pollution & Illegal Pig Slaughtering Compliments of Smithfield Foods

By Marcie Barnes

**See update/edit after 4th paragraph regarding pig slaughter method.**

I'm not going to get into a lot of detail about why I've never been able to stomach pork very well. And I'm not going to preach to those of you who eat it. Instead I'm going to ask you to carefully consider what it is that you are putting in your mouth and how your dollars spent on this factory-farmed product impact the environment and your health.

2006 article from Rolling Stone sums up all of Smithfield Foods' dirty little secrets quite well. The subtitle tells us that "America's top pork producer churns out a sea of waste that has destroyed rivers, killed millions of fish and generated one of the largest fines in EPA history. Welcome to the dark side of the other white meat."

And as I suspected, the Chairman of Smithfield Foods, according to the article, is reaping the benefits in his "multimillion-dollar condo on Park Avenue in Manhattan and conveys himself about the planet in a corporate jet and a private yacht." (The article also notes that "the 500,000 pigs at a single Smithfield subsidiary in Utah generate more fecal matter each year than the 1.5 million inhabitants of Manhattan.")

If that's not disturbing enough, I realized after watching the documentary film
Food, Inc. (please follow that link and search for showtimes near you) that they are slaughtering their pigs in an illegal manner -- at least at the Tar Heel, NC slaughterhouse where a worker filmed undercover footage for the documentary. (The Tar Heel facility is the largest slaughterhouse in the world, by the way). What appeared to be groups of a dozen or so pigs crushed to death by machine (which was the same observation made in this movie review) is a far cry from the terms of the Humane Slaughter Act of 1958.

**Update: I just got off the phone with a USDA official here in NC and he said they are not crushing the pigs, but rather containing them in a CO2 "tank" and it's the CO2 that kills them, although he admits it still "hurts" (he's apparently accidently gotten a lungful before). He also said there is an inspector whose sole job is "humane slaughtering" - he inspects that facility - asked to speak to him as well - and I am waiting for his call. Stay tuned.** 28JUL09

From the Wikipedia entry: "According to the law, animals should be stunned into unconsciousness prior to their slaughter to ensure a quick, relatively painless death." The pigs in the footage I saw were clearly, awake, walking, and "terrified" according to movie reviewer Brian Clark Howard.

Just last year, an undercover People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
(PETA) investigator filmed a Sampson County employee mistreating pigs at another slaughterhouse. Consequently, the worker was charged with 6 counts of animal cruelty. What, I wonder, is the penalty for crushing approximately 35,000 pigs to death every day, possibly since 1992?

What you can do: Stop purchasing factory-farmed meat. This is found in fast food, most restaurants, and in most of the packaged meats in grocery stores. Instead, vote with your dollars by supporting local farmers who treat their livestock humanely. I just found this local, grass-fed ground beef at WholeFoods for $4.99/lb - which meant my husband's burger meat cost a whopping $1.75:


If you still think it's too expensive, simply cut your meat consumption by 1/3 or more and you'll be doing your body and the environment a big favor.

From the USDA's guidelines: "The gas must be administered in a way that produces surgical anesthesia quickly and calmly, with a minimum of excitement and discomfort to the animals"

Is that really what is happening? Send messages to:
heir rep, Paula Deen: @Paula_Deen (on twitter)
ETA: (The Smithfield plant is on Hwy 87W in Tar Heel, NC)


Anonymous said...

Does everyone who cooks pork know that you are supposed to cook it THOROUGHLY? No medium-rare pork! Why?? Because pork can have tape worms and trichinosis that can really make you ill. Just thinking about it makes me ill! Or did you ever think about what parts are in pork sausage? Parts are parts right?? Ugh! Think about eating quality rather than quantity and stay away from factory meats.

Anonymous said...

Hey M - Your favorite 4HWW poster here. The facts here just do not support this kind of sensationalism. Lots of people eat pork, bacon, sausages, hotdogs... . It is a healthy and necessary part of both society and the economy

This article glosses over thousands of important aspects of the food chain. Just be careful of the low level thinking some bloggers/writers use as a crutch for poor research.

Ryan Holiday said it best, "Breathlessly chasing the first lead you find without constantly checking it against the world around you is a dangerous way and unproductive way to think."

I understand what you are trying to do, but the reality of the situation is that factory produced meat is safe, nutritious, economical, and it tastes good.

The article mentions to switch to grass fed beef. Tim Ferriss wrote about that label in this blog post . Here is the operative section, "USDA regulated. It means, very narrowly, that animals eat grass. According to the USDA definition, “grass-fed” animals can also be fed grain, and can be raised on grass in confinement, as long as they have access to pasture."

With a bit of research you will find that a lot of those supposedly 'natural' alternatives are really not healthy alternatives, nor offer anything much more than window dressing.

Leonard Okoth said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Mark said...

I understand what you are trying to do, but the reality of the situation is that the factory produced meat is like viagra online
I mean, it is safe, nutritious, economical, and it tastes good.

Alexandra said...

"In 1997, as reported by the Sierra Club in their damning "Rapsheet on Animal Factories," Smithfield was penalized for a mind blowing seven thousand violations of the Clean water act...The US government accused the company of dumping illegal levels of waste into the Pagan River...and then falsifying and destroying records to cover up its activities."[Eating Animals, Jonathan Safran Foer, Page 178]
What exactly do you mean by "safe"? There are enough facts out there to support this, you just need to search.

Alexandra said...

And after being fought in US they go elsewhere: "In Eastern Europe, the company sidestepped EU environ-
mental laws in Poland and Romania during the EU accession transition period, essentially allowing the company to pollute as a heavy industry. Smithfield’s pollution is extensively damaging to the ecosystem in northern Poland, according to the Helsinki Commission. Overapplying manure to fields is harming water systems connected to the Baltic Sea, and ammonia and nitrogen waste is contaminating the soil. In the Polish town of Byszkowo, residents developed rashes and eye infections after Smithfield’s waste lagoon overflowed and polluted two lakes"[]